In the age of big data and advanced analytics, much of the talk about how information can benefit companies focuses on gaining new insights about customers, market opportunities, trends, and other external factors.
Some organizations are turning the data analysis inward, however, to transform the way processes are conducted. Such is the case at Neste, a refining company that specializes in lower-emission traffic fuels and is the world's leading producer of diesel made from renewable raw materials.
As part of the effort to enhance processes such as procurement, sales, and accounting, the company beginning in late 2014 shifted from working in functional teams in a decentralized structure to a centralized process with clear "process owners."
The goals were to improve customer experience, create business value via continuous process improvements and operational excellence, enhance cross-functional and cross-company cooperation and collaboration, enhance process management capabilities in daily operations, and increase transparency in and understanding of cross-functional processes, said Markko Rajatora, director of business processes at Neste.
"There was nothing wrong with the 'old method' as such; it was rather about deciding to be still better, continuously, and not accepting the status quo of operations," Rajatora said.
A key component of the effort to improve process management is SAP Process Mining by Celonis 4.2, a process mining software that uses "digital traces of IT-supported processes" to reconstruct what happens in a company. The application shows all of the process variants, and it provides visualization of all currently running processes.
The technology is expected to play a critical role in the effort to enhance processes, providing full transparency and analysis so the company can observe business processes directly from the vast data present in IT infrastructure systems such as its SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform.
Based on the analytical findings and process key performance indicators (KPIs), the company will be able to identify process improvement opportunities, Rajatora said. The results of the data mining and analysis will be presented to process managers, business line managers, and potentially anyone involved in various processes if it will help generate improvements.
Because of its "near live" connectivity to enterprise applications such as ERP, the mining software can be used to provide an operative viewpoint of processes, not just for historical analytics.
The move toward improved business process management is still in the fairly early phase and efforts are focused on the company's core processes and on those processes within the scope of the ERP platform, Rajatora said. As a result it's too soon to report tangible benefits from the software implementation or the cultural shift in process management, he said.
The Celonis mining software will play a central role in providing long-term process improvements. But Neste won't know for sure exactly what the impact will be for a few months. "Our first major analytics implementations with process KPIs with Celonis are due for later this year," Rajatora said.
Even though the ability to have detailed views of process performance via internal data is still in the future, management is confident that significant improvements are coming. "We are very close to it, [and have a] clear understanding of the new capabilities and transparency of business operations the Celonis analytics will provide to us," Rajatora said.
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